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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Coming of the Spirit

Acts 2:1-11 gives us the scene of that first Pentecost. There are some interesting elements. First, the day “found the brethren gathered in one place.” There is an unexpectancy to the movement of the Spirit who FINDS them and acts SUDDENLY. On what would be the birthday of the Church, the Spirit finds the brethren watchful and awake. The believers are gathered, no doubt for fellowship and prayer. Since Christ had already instituted the priesthood and Eucharist, they might have been celebrating the “breaking of the bread.” Second, we read that “Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong driving wind . . . .” All hear it in the house. Behind the symbolism of the wind, the Holy Spirit literally breaks from the celestial house of heaven and reverberates in the house of the Church. Third, the Holy Spirit is imaged as “tongues of fire” over the assembled. Fire gives off light. The Holy Spirit would illumine their minds and make them sharers in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. Fire warms the flesh, and again like Jesus, the Church would bring the healing and forgiveness of the Lord to a cold world. Fire also burns and so does the Holy Spirit in that it destroys the old way of sin and builds new with the firm foundation of Christ Jesus. Fourth, the assembled speak in many tongues, a recognition that the Gospel proclamation is meant for all peoples and nations.

The kerygma of salvation can only be understood in terms of configuration to Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of the Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us” (1 John 3:23-24). Faith and obedience is only possible if the Holy Spirit animates us (see also 1 John 4:13). Faith itself is a gift of the Spirit. This is the message of Paul. “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). See also Acts 5:29-32. The posture of the believer to the Holy Spirit is one of humble openness and acceptance.

The Gospel gives the essential elements of the Church’s mission. The disciples are afraid and hiding behind locked doors. However, like Jonah who could not run away from God or his call as a prophet, so too can the disciples not hide. The risen Lord breaks upon them and proclaims, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Breathing upon them, another image for the Holy Spirit, he gives them a great commission: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (John 20:21-23). This legitimates the Church’s ministry of forgiveness and the power given to priests to absolve sins. Never before had God given such authority to men.

What more do the Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit? As the principle of creation, we read that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). A harmony existed between the Creator and creation. When mankind fell from grace, something of this Spirit was taken from us: “Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh . . .’” (Genesis 6:3). The Holy Spirit gives both physical and supernatural life. The gulf created by sin ushered in our mortality as well as forfeiting our likeness to God in grace. God, himself, would not allow this sad separation to remain forever. The Gospel of John has Jesus explicitly speaking of the divinity of the Holy Spirit: “‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:24). This truth is confirmed by Peter when speaking about the deceit of Ananias: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . . ? You have not lied to men but to God’” (Acts 5:3,4). The Spirit maintains truth and convicts us if we stray away from the path marked by our Lord.

The Holy Spirit is God. He is the power of God that created us and keeps us in existence. The Spirit of God is absolutely dynamic and working. Otherwise, we would cease to exist. The Spirit of God is not fickle. What God has created has a purpose. God does not make mistakes. God respects our tremendous freedom in assenting to his grace or in rebelling against it. The Holy Spirit moves us to faith in the mysterious divine election. He guides human history and ensures the providence of God. He makes possible the miracles of Jesus. He makes real the forgiveness of sins. He is the force behind the resurrection, one with Christ, allowing him to rise by his own power. Showered upon the followers of Jesus at Pentecost, he gives efficacy to the sacraments of the Church and grants the assurance of truth to those appointed as sharers in Christ’s priesthood. That which was lost because of our sin is restored by the intervention of God in human history. The resurrection of Jesus overcomes the stigma of death and allows us to be reborn in the likeness of God as sons and daughters to the Father.

The Holy Spirit makes faith possible and assures those in the Church established by Jesus of knowing saving truth without error. It is a truth different from that offered by the world. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). The Spirit of God is given to us both individually and as a new community fashioned by God, himself.

Just as the Holy Spirit lives in us, so too does he live in the house that is the Church, the community of faith. It has been said that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. We would do well to reflect upon what the Spirit of God offers us. He gives us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord [reverence] (Isaiah 11:2,3). Besides the seven gifts, there are also twelve traditional fruits: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, humility, fidelity, modesty, continence, and chastity (Galatians 5:22,23,24). These catechetical listings are quite worthy of mention and annotation at a time when many good Catholics need a booster shot to their Christian formation. We live in the age of the Holy Spirit. Every day we should pray the words, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; and kindle in them the fire of your love.”

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.